Thursday 27 November 2008

A Woodland Wander

This morning I carried out my monthly bird survey near Colyton. I'm pleased to report that Woodcocks are back, I saw four in total, two of which gave excellent flight views as they took off just feet from me. The woods also gave me the opportunity to try out my new toy.....
An Audubon Bird Caller

It actually worked really well, Goldcrests were literally throwing themselves at me! Also in the woods a couple of Siskins, with some Redwings over.

I came back home via the river and Lower Bruckland Ponds, were the female Tufted Duck remains and a large flock of Fieldfares and Redwings were near by. The estuary produced two adult Med Gulls, both of which look like new individuals.

I hope Med Gull photos don't bore anyone, because you can be sure of many on this blog!

Won't have much birding time over the next few days, but I'm quite happy with what I've seen of late. It's been rather enjoyable winter birding really!

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Some Duck Ringing And Another Patch Scarcity

I will start this post with the patch scarcity bit. Late morning I had time for a quick scan over the sea from Spot On, 18 Common Scoters were loafing about, eight Teal flew in from the south and plonked down, two Great Crested Grebes were close in and a lovely Red-throated Diver was even closer in! Then the top prize drifted in to view, a stunning Black-throated Diver! One of the closest I've ever seen off here, but because I'm a plank my camera was not with me or in the car! It soon drifted out to usual diver-range, which is when Ian M and Karen rolled up to enjoy it too. My third of the year.

So, I will now rewind the day to early this morning....

I've not had many, if any, posts about bird ringing. There is a good reason for this, an obvious one too, I haven't done any! I am a member, well joint-founder really, of the Axe Estuary Ringing Group, and this morning a date was set with our duck traps on Seaton Marshes. Fraser Rush (reserve warden a fellow T-ringer) and the man himself, Mike Tyler (Group chairman and A-ringer) were also there and we met at 08:00. This is what our duck trap looks like....

And this is what we caught.....

In these bags (and a couple of others out of shot) were nine Shelduck! All nine though were already ringed as we have processed hundreds of these ducks over the past two winters here, it's interesting to see that they do come back though winter after winter.

As I will be handling and photographing stacks of Shelduck over the next few month I'll only post a couple of pics from today. Here's a couple of Shelduck wing-shots....

An adult male

And this a younger female - look at all the differences!

One last photo, our leader Mike who has obviously just fallen in love with this young lady....

Mr Mike Tyler

The only other bits of birding info I can inform people of today was of a Siskin west over my garden this morning, and on Seaton Marshes a really showy Cetti's Warbler in the north west corner of the reserve along with some Fieldfares and two Mistle Thrushes over west.

Tuesday 25 November 2008

A Better Than Average Winter's Day!

Nice and cool this morning, with crystal clear skies. Went to work at one, and had the dentists late morning so only had a couple of hours in the field.

Lower Bruckland Ponds produced the female Tuftie still, and a sweep of the river produced nothing new or different. So, to the sea - I was here from 08:25ish.

There were 15 odd Common Scoters on the sea and two Great Crested Grebes. Two Teal and a Wigeon flew in from the south to join the Scoters. Shortly after this a Tufted Duck also flew in off, heading inland over town. Then I picked up three distant ducks sat on the sea, they were female-type Goldeneyes! Any other year this would have sparked a local twitch, but this year has been a bumper year for this species on patch. These were my sixth, seventh and eighth of the year, our tenth in total! Ian M and birding friend Alan came to see them, and they remained here until I left just after 9am. Lastly, a flock of c30 Common Scoters flew distantly west.

Before I returned home I had a look along the top road (A3052). Didn't take long to find what I was hoping for amongst a few fields-full of Lapwings near the Honiton turn off, about 30 Golden Plovers. Wanted to get some real good photos but as I had just started clicking they all moved to the next field over, which was out of view! I will try again at a later date if they remain, here's one photo anyway....

It must be cold if we have these!

I wonder what tomorrow will bring...??

Monday 24 November 2008

An Average Winter's Day

A belated phonecall from Kym was nice this morning, the fact it was at 2am spoiled it somewhat!! And after it I just couldn't get back to sleep! So at 04:30 I found myself watching two hours of recorded telly from the night before in front of a roaring fire in the front room!!! Anyway, as I was up early, as soon as it looked like it was getting light I headed down the seafront. It wouldn't be right if I didn't have a 'sky shot' (or two!) in this post, so here's one...

07:30 this morning

The sea was quiet, with three Great Northern Divers easily being the highlight; one flew in from the east before landing distantly then about 15 minutes later two flew east together. The only other birds passing (aside Gulls) were 40+ auk sp.. On the sea were 23 Common Scoters. I stayed here 'til just after 08:30.

Lower Bruckland Ponds produced the female Tufted Duck still (the male's not been seen here for about a week now). A stomp around in the saltmarsh north of Coronation Corner produced ten Snipe, a Water Rail and three Rock Pipits. The estuary early afternoon gave this single adult Med Gull and a couple of Common Sandpipers.

It just wouldn't get its bill out when I wanted it to!

Haven't seen many Wigeon today at all, they must all be hiding somewhere I haven't looked, but there was a nice gathering of a few less than ten off Coronation Corner. They weren't doing much but I just couldn't resist!

Sleepy duckies!

At 3pm I met Fraser at Seaton Marshes, and remained here 'til dark. Black-tailed Godwits have exploded in numbers over the last day or so, with just over 50 on show. Also on the marsh seven Shoveler and two Snipe.

As I was taking snaps of the sunset from the hide, my eyes picked out a duck flying away south with shallow wing beats. On putting my bins up it was clearly a female saw-bill (a GooseMerganser). Which one I don't know, as it was always distant and always flying away. After it flew over the town it dopped down, sharpish, maybe it roosted on the sea? With a single female Goosander on the estuary on Saturday, I guess there's a good chance it's the same bird - hopefully one of us will see it again. Finally, to end this post, here's the sunset over Seaton Marshes.....

Saturday 22 November 2008

A Small Detour

Stayed down with Kym last night in Plymouth, watched the new James Bond film - excellent! Followed this with a shopping trip to ASDA at 23:00! The delights of living in a city!

Woke up at 9am this morning and left a little earlier than I needed too. I made a slight detour, and found myself at this gateway....

And the view from this gateway was this.....

After a minute or so scanning with my bins, I 'just happened' (as far as Kym is concerned anyway!) to come across this.....

I love Cranes!

If you look back at the landscape photo the Crane was at the foot of that big hill on the right hand side, just to the left of the corner of that copse.

I took a video too, it has gone a bit blurry after I've uploaded it on youtube, but still looks OK. If you watch it long enough it stretches its wings! Awesome!

Wednesday 19 November 2008

One Goose Wonder

Missed loads of Wood Pigeons this morning, I stayed in bed far too late! Well, only til '08:30, but that's late enough to miss several thousand Pigeons! Thanks to a text from Tom at West Bay to alert me of this movement....that I missed! I did see a couple of flocks of c100 fly west over town at about 09:30.

When I did get out I went along the estuary, and then to the sea front where I watched for about half an hour. As happens quite often in a north wind, there was quite a lot of stuff on the move out there - but mostly miles out! The only identifiable things were a few auk sp., good numbers of big and small Gulls, a couple of Common Scoters (plus c15 on the sea), and the star of the watch, an adult White-fronted Goose close west at 09:30. Hopefully this marks the start of a cold weather movement? A single small wader was very frustrating, it looked dark and interesting. Darn thing flew too high and too distant, too quickly!

And that's it for me today, hopefully I'll get a chance for some Pigeon counting tomorrow!

Monday 17 November 2008

A Twitch!

I average 2 - 10 off patch twitches a year, so not that many. For me to be lured to twitch something, most of the following boxes need to be ticked.
  • has to be 'fairly' close (i.e in the south west)
  • has to be a 'very good' chance of seeing it
  • has to be a bird that I WANT to see
  • helps if there are several rarities/scarcities in the area I'm going
  • the local patch is quiet
Well four of those five boxes were ticked for the Dark-eyed Junco that turned up yesterday near Yeovil. Phil texted me when he received the news yesterday afternoon, and I'd soon made plans in my head to go and see it late morning today. But that plan changed!

For some stupid reason I woke up at 04:15 this morning and really couldn't get back to sleep! I sat up in bed, turned the laptop on and saw some gripping pictures of this American beauty. I then realised I actually had quite a lot to do today, so thought sod it....I'm off! I very rarely leave for a twitch pre-dawn because I like to know if the bird is still there first, but because it wasn't far to travel I just got up and went! I knew Bun was desperate to see it, and that he would be awake and plodding about before work, so bundled him into the car and drove northwards til' we got here...

Then we got to here....

Which looked like this......

Then found the target house, number 25.....

Then instructions were to walk up the side of the house..... (you can see Bun in the distance in the following pic!)

And here's a close up of the wall surrounding the garden of number 25.....

Did we see it?......Oh yes! At about 07:20 in the gloom a flash of grey and white directed my eyes onto the star bird sat on top of this very wall, but it only stayed on view for a couple of seconds. There was no further sign til' about 07:45 when it reappeared perched briefly on the wooden gate, giving a few rare bunting-like 'ticks' as it flew in. It was great to see it, but I hadn't even got my bins onto it yet! This was soon changed though after an invitation by the very VERY kind home owners. Our view of the garden then became this........

A small garden, but good enough for a Junco!

It soon came out and showed well on the tree at the end of the garden, before dropping down behind the small shrubs where it only gave partial glimpses. It disappeared for a short while, but at about 08:30 reappeared in the tree before dropping down onto the bird table where it spent a couple of minutes feeding. What a totally AWESOME bird!

So where are all my stunning pics??? Well there aren't any! The double-glazed windows didn't help, neither did the lack of space. But just before it flew off after we saw it for the final time I managed a quick video clip. It is short, if you blink you may miss it - but it does show the bird well. Take a gander....

There were actually plenty of birds around here. Lots of Fieldfares and Redwings flying around, and the birder who found the Junco had a Firecrest briefly. It was time to come home, we were back by 10am.

I spent nearly all of the rest of the day doing odd jobs, including a fair bit of time in the garden where several small flocks of Redwings flew over west.

p.s. all the 'site' pictures were actually taken as we drove off as it was dark when we arrived!

Sunday 16 November 2008

A Post Of Next To Nothing

Came back from Plymouth this afternoon, and had a quick look about late this afternoon. Surprised to see the Common Scoter flock has exploded in numbers, with a couple less than 50 off Seaton Hole late today. Also good numbers of Wigeon off the harbour mouth. A Common Gull still in full juvenile plumage was unusual to see at this time of year.

A look along the river showed this Med Gull and 35 Black-tailed Godwits.

Darn bird wouldn't turn around!

Thursday 13 November 2008

Red Sky In The Morning, Birders Warning

Last night there were Redwings streaming over in the nights sky, so I had high hopes for the vis mig this morning. Unfortunately the presence of more cloud subdued the overhead action somewhat, it was nowhere near as busy as yesterday. The view was nice though, this is how it looked at 07:15.


I stayed here til 08:30. It wasn't a total waste of time with the following totals going into my notebook: 265 Wood Pigeons, 19 Stock Doves, 2 Skylarks, 17 Meadow Pipits, 5 alba Wagtails, 2 Grey Wagtails, 2 Blackbirds, 2 Song Thrushes, 2 Redwings, 19 Starlings, 186 Chaffinches, 2 Bramblings, 8 Goldfinches, 4 Siskins and 1 Lesser Redpoll. I totally fluffed what would have been the bird of the watch - a patch tick in fact!

I followed this with a look off the seafront, this revealed no Surf Scoter! Just six Common
loafing about offshore. Hopefully it is still around somewhere...?

Wednesday 12 November 2008

New Vis Mig Central?

After a look over the sea which showed lots of horrible sea/river mist, and a text from 'Bun' informing me of some bits and bobs flying over Beer, I thought I'd go to some high ground and see what I could see flying over the patch. Beer stables was where I ended up, and it was brilliant! Superb view over most of Seaton and the lower river valley, and most things passed right overhead. It takes me just over 20 mins to get from my house to my vis mig watch point at Axe Cliff, but from me house to here - about 3 minutes! This is the view looking east, note the river murk!

That's Axe Cliff in the distance

I only spent 45 mins here from 07:45 and my vis mig totals were: 1,450 Wood Pigeons, 420 Starlings, 3 Skylarks, 2 alba Wagtails, 5 Meadow Pipits, 442 Chaffinches, 3 Bramblings, 20 Goldfinches and 3 Siskins. Not too bad for such a short watch! If the weather is like this tomorrow morning I'll spend alot more time counting. I left promptly because I was so keen to have a look at the sea as the murk cleared. Spot On is where I went, surprise surprise!

I soon picked out the Surf Scoter with ten Common Scoters. Am still unsure about it's age, but its belly appeared pale when I saw it flap. As the sea was calmer and light better I tried some photos. It was still MILES away, so never going to get brilliant shots, but you can see the profile well on these pics....

A SUPERB photo of a distant blob....which just happens to be a Surf Scoter!

A bit closer

You can even see the pale nape patch on this pic! Alongside two Commons

Also a Great Crested Grebe on the sea and nine Brent Geese flew west.

Monday 10 November 2008

It's Not Over 'Til The Fat Lady Sings....

....Or the sun goes down!

It's been a bit slow over the last few days on patch, and today didn't appear to be any different. I was expecting a dry hour or so after dawn then continuous rain for the remainder of the day, with a force 8 south westerly throughout. Nothing like that at all! There has barely been any wind all day and after a VERY wet morning this afternoon turned out to be precipitation-free! Despite the lack of wind the sea still looked pretty impressive....

This pici shows my favourite sea watching 'shelter' on patch, the Spot On Kiosk. That's Beer Head in the distance, and the highest bit of white cliff further in the bay is Seaton Hole.

There was next to nothing over the sea whilst I was looking at it, a couple of Razorbills and Kittiwakes the best. There was virtually nothing of note anywhere, a late Swallow over Seaton Marshes easily being the highlight. I have noticed a few more Chiffchaffs about today (3 Lower Bruckland, 2 Seaton Marshes), a couple of Water Rails squealed when the water-levels began to rise on the estuary and the pair of Tufties are still at Lower Bruckland. A Stoat was nice to see as it legged it across the road at Boshill Cross.

With little light left (it was now 16:05) I thought I'd take a look at the Gull roost off Seaton Hole. A quick pre-scope-out-the-boot scan with my bins revealed a small flock of Scoters bobbing about fairly distantly offshore, about ten of them. I whipped the scope out to give them a closer look, and six Common Scoters in, a female/immature Surf Scoter gave me one hell of a shock! My phone immediately kicked into action and within 20 minutes all local listers and most local birders were on scene. It gave one flap showing us its belly and it appeared fairly dark, so presumably it's an adult female, which presumably makes it the Dawlish/Torbay bird!?? Because of this duck I didn't look at any gulls at all!

This is our fourth Surfer for the patch, though the first two were on the extreme edge of the 'greater' patch boundary, at Weston. We have been massively overdue a Surfer this year, and am only too glad that one finally gave us a look in, hopefully it will hang around.

So a cracking end to a crap day! But there was still time for the day to get even better...

Gammon and chips - yum yum!

Saturday 8 November 2008

The Last Two Days And Today

Let's start with Friday. I got out of bed dead early and rushed up to Axe Cliff, the conditions were perfect for a huge movement. It was TOTAL CRAP! The most disappointing vis mig session I have EVER EVER EVER had! It was made a bit better though that night when I logged on to a couple of south coast birding sites, all experienced the same as me...high expectations but NAFF ALL! The only birdie highlight of the day was driving home during my lunch break; a female-type Black Red was sat in the middle of the road on Sea Hill. It took off and landed on an adjacent house roof before I could add it to the 'road kill list'.

Saturday I spent all day at work so saw nothing whatsoever. And now to today...

I took Kym to work (who has come home for the weekend) at ten then went for a look along the estuary. This smart adult
Med Gull was in one of the first flocks I looked at....

The only hint of anything Mediterranean today!

Then a little further up river I struck lucky with a stonking adult Yellow-legged Gull, I reckon about our fifth of the year. Unfortunately virtually the moment I clapped eyes on it the heavens opened, and it really REALLY rained! And as soon as the rain eased, the bird flew off! I did attempt to get a few digi-binned record shots from inside the car whilst it was tipping down with rain, here's the best of them - but they were all crap to be honest. Can you pick it out in the first one? I just wished it had stayed for some proper snaps, the pics I took really didn't do it justice at all - it was a stunner.

Where's Wally?

This photo - although fuzzy and pure tosh - does show it a little better. You can even just about make out its leg colour!

A truly awful photo

The only other sighting worth writing about today is of the continued presence of the two Tufted Ducks at Lower Bruckland Ponds. I wonder what tomorrow will bring.... rain probably!

Thursday 6 November 2008

Two Half Days Of Not Much

First of all, to yesterday morning.....

The sea revealed just Common Scoters, but a late Swallow flew east along the beach. Lower Bruckland Ponds gave the two Tufted Duck and a (the) female Pintail. A sweep of the estuary gave 30 Black-tailed Godwits and 14 Dunlin. Where ever I was yesterday morning there seemed to be plenty of stuff on the move overhead, not anything special just good numbers of the usual suspects. During the night there were huge numbers of Redwings going over along with a couple of Song Thrushes and a Blackbird.

Then to today, too much low cloud and murk for any attempts at vis migging, but I still had a good look about.

Seaton Marshes in the gloom

On the sea, the Common Scoter flock soon encouraged two Teal and a Shoveler to join them. For today though, that is about it. Well, until I came home for breakfast......

Easily my favourite meal of the day!

And the same view less than a minute later.....

Who ate all the Crumpets? Stupid question!

Tuesday 4 November 2008

A Bit More Local Quality

Although I started work at 07:30 this morning I got out of bed extra early so I could stand at the Spot On Kiosk for 25 minutes seawatching before my start time. Bun joined be at about 07:20.

I mentioned in yesterdays post that watching the passerines coming in off reminded me lots of the east coast, but this morning - moments before I was due in to work - I had a real flash-back moment! A Woodcock flew into my scope view miles out to sea, it was flying east but sooned veered northwards and quickly began to gain height as it got nearer to the coast. One of the things I loved at Spurn was watching Woodcocks come in off during the late autumn period, they just look SO wrong a mile out to sea! This was certainly a first for me in the Seaton area - not Woodcock - but Woodcock over the sea!

Back to the start of this short seawatch, the first scan over the sea produced about 26 Common Scoters, and I soon picked up another duck flying north into the bay - it was another Goldeneye! The sixth for us in three days! This first-winter drake soon landed amongst a flock of c12 Scoters and remained here til' Bun arrived, providing him with a nice 'easy' year tick. The other notable sighting was of two Brent Geese west.

Not sure what to do with my free morning tomorrow, hopefully see some birds!

Monday 3 November 2008

Some Ducking Good Seawatching

As the title suggests, I was staring southwards from Seaton seafront this morning, and in particular the Spot On Kiosk - where else!?

As the title also suggests it was a duck-fest! It was a nightmare for the notebook though as ducks were going in every direction doing everything. Some in, some out, some east, some west, some landing, some not....nightmare! The first minute was all a bit manic, but I'm glad I wasn't a minute late! I rolled up at 07:15 and the first bird I saw was a female-type Red-breasted Merganser that flew in, I followed it in the scope as it dropped down into Axmouth harbour. I swung the scope round to the right to look out to sea and locked straight on to an incoming flock of ducks which soon showed to contain 15 Wigeon, 2 Teal and a female Pintail. Then behind them two more distant ducks were flying west - Goldeneye! I seawatched until 09:30, joined by Ian McLean from about 08:40.

My duck totals for this watch were: 4 Brent Geese (2 pairs west), 1 Shelduck, 2 Mallard, 1 Shoveler, 48 Wigeon, 28 Teal, 1 Pintail, 2 Goldeneye, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, 46 Common Scoters, 1 Velvet Scoter (west) and 2 Eider (east, including a smart drake). Other bits and bobs on the move over the sea included: 1 Black-throated Diver (only my second of the year), 1 Red-throated Diver, 2 Diver sp., 1 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Razorbill, 1 Oystercatcher, 1 Curlew and 2 un-ID'd small waders. During the watch Gulls were continuously coming in off the sea into the wind, including lots of Common Gulls. A single adult Med Gull did the same, and as it was approaching I thought 'hmmm...this is going to come past me very VERY close, let's try a hand-held digi shot'. Unfortunately by the time I'd faffed around with my camera, and by the time the camera had focused on to the bird, all I got was this....

Well at least it is identifiable - white wing-tips!

There also seemed to be quite a lot of passerine movement overhead despite the rather strong wind. Some large flocks of Chaffinches flew along the beach, as did some even larger flocks of Starlings. The highlight was my first Fieldfare of the autumn. It was rather enjoyable watching Skylarks and the occasional Blackbird arrive in off the sea, reminding me a lot of the east coast.

I then went for a look around the valley, Lower Bruckland Ponds being the first port of call. The two Tufted Ducks from last week were still present, but two female Gadwall were new in, though they flew off as soon as they saw me! A flock of 30 Siskins flew over. After a stomp round the ponds I called in at Bridge Marsh, the two Gadwall were now here, as was the female Pintail I'd see fly in off the sea a few hours previous. I tried to get a pici of the Gadwalls and Pintail together, but the latter swam too far to the left so I had to settle for a really rubbish record shot of the former.

Another pants photo, but again identifiable - just!

A look at Seaton Marshes produced....two female Gadwall! I assume the same two! Also here four Shoveler, three Lesser Redpoll and a really weird Kingfisher! Here on patch Kingfishers are ten-a-penny, but I've never seen one like this! It was either really tame, or really ill, unfortunately I assume the latter. It just didn't want to fly!

A Kingfisher NOT living up to its name!

I then went back to the Spot On again to try another seawatch, 10:40 - 11:20. This proved a great move as it added another two Goldeneye onto the day list, both 'brown-heads'. I picked them up sat on the sea close in at about 11:00. They soon took to the air, giving a wonderful aerial display! They flew west together virtually over the beach, U-turned, and flew back east again. They started to veer in towards the yacht club but in the end continued east presumably into Dorset. So that's FOUR Goldeneye in one day on patch - unprecendented! Also during this watch I logged another Red-throated Diver, 21 Wigeon (in off), 2 Teal, 16 Common Scoters, 1 Red-breasted Merganser (on sea) and 2 Razorbill.

Later on in the day, another sweep of the estuary produced four adult Med Gulls and five Dunlin.

That's my day off for the week, but am on lates Wednesday, Thursday and Friday so should have some morning birding time. To finish this post, here's a random photo of a rather nice collection of clouds over the sea at half seven this morning.
Anyone know the name of all these cloud types?

Cool clouds!